Criminal herdsmen in Ibarapa aided by jobless indigenes — Igboho monarch

The Ona Onibode, Oba AbdulRasheed Adetoyese, is one of the three traditional rulers in Igboholand, Oke Ogun part of Oyo State. In this interview with GBENGA ADERANTI, Oba Adetoyese talks about his relationship with the other traditional rulers in the community, why attacks on the community by criminal herders have been frequent, the roles that monarchs should play in governance, his relationship with ethnic activist Sunday Igboho and why it is difficult to stop criminal activities in Oke-Ogun area.

The people of Oke Ogun appear to have suffered more than any other community in Oyo State as a result of attacks by criminal herders. What could be responsible for this?

In my area here in Oke Ogun 2, we have little problems. When I say Oke-Ogun 2, I am talking about the Saki axis of Oyo State. It is different in Oke-Ogun 1, which is Iseyin and Ibarapa areas. There are more herders there than here. But the herders here have been living with us from time immemorial.

Also, we have constituted a security committee, and Fulani people who have been living with us for a very long time are members of this committee. Any time they see new sets of herders coming into the community, they would inform the monarch of the town. This has helped us in keeping tabs on the new herders that are coming into Igboho. Also, the Old Oyo National Park is very close to us. There some criminal herders used to hide. But to the glory of God, it is impossible now for the criminal herders to hide because of the combined efforts of local hunters, Amotekun, vigilante and the police.

The army barracks at Saki also deters criminal herders from using the forest. So crime among herders is not pronounced in our area. We have little problem here, unlike other Ibarapa areas.

What do you think the government can do to stop the problem of herdsmen attacking communities?

I don’t think you should limit the problems of insecurity to criminal herders alone. I would prefer we address the crimes being perpetrated by both herders and indigenes.

Some of our sons are unemployed and they engage in one crime or the other. If the government gives local government autonomy, these problems will be reduced. At least, governance would be nearer to the people. It is sad that graduates do not have anything to do other than ride okada (commercial motorcycles). This set of people is tempted to commit crime or act as accessories to crime if tempted with money.

If there is local government autonomy, there will be jobs in the community. The law that established the local government should be re-examined and the government should pump more money into the local government.

Government should also fund the local hunters in order to fight crimes. They are closer to the community and they know the terrains.

Unfortunately, these criminals have continued to come with different tactics day in and day out.

Look at Niger State; it used to be safe and peaceful, but not anymore. The increase in crime rate is not peculiar to any region in Nigeria. Everybody is feeling the pain of unemployment.

The crime rate would have been high in this part of Oke-Ogun if not for the security measure we put in place, though we still have pockets of crimes here and there, like herders going to destroy farms. But if you compare this with the way these criminals attack villages in the north, the difference is poles apart.

Crime in Ibarapa is high because some of the indigenes are working in tandem with the criminal herders in perpetrating crimes in the area. Things are worse there because there is a forest in that axis that shares a border with the Benin Republic. The forest is the hideout for the criminals. Government needs to support the local hunters in fighting crime on that axis. If local hunters go there and invade the forest without the support of the government, it could be counterproductive. For example, those who arrested a suspected kidnapper, Wakili, and handed him over to the police were detained. Government needs to find a solution to insecurity. For the problem of Nigeria to be solved, we need a new constitution, not constitution amendment.

In all this, what role do you think traditional rulers should play?

Unfortunately, the present political arrangement does not favour traditional rulers. The traditional institution is not part of governance. Traditional rulers are not part of political decision making. Yet traditional rulers are closer to the people. For example, here, in each of the local government areas, there are traditional council members. Each council has 15 members who are expected to be meeting periodically. Besides that, we have the ones for states too. But most of them are currently not meeting. Some governors do not even consult these traditional rulers on security matters.

Traditional rulers do not have any role to play in the Nigerian constitution. In the olden days, monarchs were charged with ensuring peace in their communities. But now, the local government chairman is in charge. Even in electing or appointing these local government chairmen, the traditional rulers are not contacted. The traditional institution will address the problem of insecurity if the new constitution is made.

There are three traditional rulers in Igboho. How have you managed to avoid clashes?

Each of the monarchs has his own domain. If something happens, we call ourselves to manage whatever happens in the wards.

Also, the government has created wards. In my domain, I have four wards. I have the largest quarters in the town. We are always in touch.

When there is a conflict of interests, how do you resolve it?

Yes, we sometimes have conflict of interests, but what we have resolved is that whatever benefit is coming, is coming to Igboho and Igboho people are the ones that would benefit. It is one town under the umbrella of three kings. The government is aware that there are three kings in Igboho.

Majority of the people are more familiar with Sunday Igboho than Sunday Adeyemo. What is the relationship between Sunday Igboho and the Igboho community?

Sunday Adeyemo is a native of Igboho. He had in many interviews explained that he grew up in Modakeke, Osun State and his father, while living in Modakeke, was known as Baba Igboho because he hailed from Igboho. Then people were calling him Sunday Omo Baba Igboho. Later, they removed the ‘omo’ and started addressing him as Sunday Igboho when his father left Modakeke and returned to Igboho. He is an Igboho son. His father and mother are from Igboho.

Not all the Yoruba are in support of his crusade, especially his quest for an Oduduwa nation. If you were to advise him, what would you be telling him?

You should understand that something brought about the agitation. The killing of the Yoruba in Ibarapa area brought about the agitation. Even many people were in pain before his own agitation started. Many people felt these herders would not stop oppressing the natives to the extent that even when their cattle graze on the farms, if the farmer resisted, he would be arrested. And the police were helpless too. Many of the natives were displeased with this. That was the beginning of the agitation. Some who were displeased but could not do anything decided to support him.

For those who are against him, you should understand that not everybody would accept your cause. Some people who feel that a united Nigeria holds more benefits for them than a fragmented country would not support him. Probably in his own wisdom, he feels if Yoruba stands as a nation, it would be beneficial than being part of a united Nigeria.

Even among the traditional rulers, there is no consensus.

Traditional rulers are suffering. Ideally, we are supposed to assist the populace. But it is not so. And that is why you see traditional rulers pandering to the wishes of politicians. Those who are advising Sunday Igboho to do this or that have reasons for doing so.

Traditional rulers are now running away from tradition and some rites. Do you think this is healthy?

Yes, that is true. And there are many reasons for this. If you don’t know the foundation of something, it will be a lot difficult for you to destroy it. If you check the history of Yoruba monarchs, you would see that the majority of them had short reigns. The reason was not far-flung. Most of these people who were privy to the traditional rites had the key to the lives of these monarchs, and they would do anything to terminate the reigns of such traditional rulers if they were displeased with them. But the present day monarchs are wiser. They avoid some of these rites in order not to be entangled. This is the more reason they run away from certain rites and they live longer. Monarchs are more careful now.

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